During Reading Ireland month, I try to read books by Irish Authors or set in Ireland, but I also want Irish culture. I planned to watch a few Irish movies as well as listen to Irish music. Over the last couple of weeks, I watched 3 movies by Irish Playwrites or set in Ireland. Here are my humble opinions about each.

“Banshees” is set in 1923, and several times its characters discuss hearing guns going off on the not-too-far-away mainland. The conflict between Colm and Pádraic serves as a handy metaphor for Ireland’s Civil War at that time. It is written and directed by Martin McDonagh and brings together stars  Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. The gist of the story is that Pádraic and Colm have been best friends for several years and Colm decides he doesn’t want to be friends anymore, his reason, Pádraic is boring. The movie is set on a small island where the inhabitants all know everyone else’s business. There is a bully of a garda, who beats his vulnerable son, a nosy post mistress, the musicians who play in the pub, the pub owner, Pádraic’s spinster sister and a pet donkey and dog among others. When Colm wants Pádraic to leave him alone, he threatens to cut off a finger everytime he tries to talk to him. That is devastating as Colm is a fiddler. There is a lot of sadness in the movie, but also tenderness and caring. So, did I like this movie? Yes, I did. I loved the setting and wonderful acting. Did I really get it? No, taken at face value, the story is interesting, but I’m sure there is a lot of symbolism that I totally missed. After reading some other reviews, I know I did. So, if you watch this movie, which won several Golden Globes and is up for several Academy Awards, let me know what you thought.

Brooklyn was released in 2015 and stars Saoirse Ronan as a Young Irish immigrant Eilis Lace. Eilis’s sister writes to a priest in New York who arranges a job and place to live for Eilis. She has no job or prospects in Ireland, so she wants her to have a good life. It is the 1950s as she begins her new life in Brooklyn. She is initially homesick, shy and doesn’t really enjoy her job, but starting school and meeting a charming Italian man at a dance, soon changes her life and she begins to enjoy herself. When she gets word that her sister has died, she heads to Ireland, just for a month, to help her mother. Before leaving, she and Tony get married, ensuring her return. When Eilis arrives home, she finds out her best friend is engaged and wants her to stay until after her wedding. She agrees, not realizing that everyone is hoping she will stay. As she becomes comfortable back in Ireland, she needs to decide where home really is.

I really enjoyed this move based on the book by Colm Toibin. I usually try to read the book before watching a movie, but in this case, I will read the book now or when I get a copy. This was a very sweet movie that dealt with some important issues. Leaving your country, family and all you know for a new country is something millions of people have done and continue to do today. It is not easy, especially if you don’t know the language. Fortunately that was not an issue for Eilis. She was lucky to have those in the boarding house to help her get over her homesickness and pointers to get along, although not always the best advice. Returning home and dealing with the guilt that her mother and others feel she should stay home and take care of her mother was heartbreaking. As she became more comfortable in Ireland, I wasn’t sure what her decision would be. Keeping secrets is never easy. I really enjoyed this movie, the story, the acting, the soundtrack and again the wonderful scenery. I definitely recommend it.

The Secret of Roan Inish is a 1994 fantasy/adventure movie written and directed by John Sayles based on the 1957 novel Secret of the Ron Mor Skerry, by Rosalie K. Fry. It is based on Irish folklore about selkies: seals that shed their skins and become human. Whoever has possession of the skin, controls the selkie. The movie is set on the coast of north-west Ireland. Young Fiona is neglected by her drunken father after the death of his wife, so she is sent to live with her grandparents and cousin Eamon near the island of Roan Inish. There are rumors that the seals living on the island on selkies and she hears about the family legend. Her younger brother was swept out to sea in a cradle as an infant and is being raised by selkies. Fiona herself seems to have a connection with the seals and when she is swept away to Roan Inish in a boat, she is sure she sees Jamie.

This was an interesting movie and I enjoyed the fantasy and myth aspect of the story. I enjoyed seeing the life in the fishing village, the culture (music, sharing of stories) and way of life. Being a small village, everyone knew everyone else, but there were secrets and muttering behind backs about the missing Jamie. It was also a hard life, and the evacuation during the war a few years before was difficult. I found that even though there was a lot of sadness in the story, the movie was whimsical and I enjoyed it. Once again, I loved the soundtrack. The celtic music was haunting but fit the story perfectly. I will not be reading the book, but if you enjoy a mythical story and want to read some Irish books this month, you might want to pick it up. I do recommend this movie as it is a great film for all ages.

There you have it, my thoughts on 3 Irish Movies that I recommend, especially during March.